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eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Everything posted by zora

  1. FoodMan's comment on Beirutis using dried leaves is interesting... I always wondered why Lebanese mulukhiya is so different. Egyptians love the stickiness--the more snot-like, the better, seems to be the consensus. And Wolfert's recipe calls for mastic--does that increase the gooiness, I wonder? (And yes, Egyptians eat mastic ice cream--but that's a Greek import.) Also, FYI, mulukhiya is also called Jew's mallow. Beats me why.
  2. OK--I read back through the thread. I feel duly informed on the subject of bay-leaf buñuelos. Thanks for nothin', Marion.
  3. I concur on jogoode's assessment of that review. How can you review food if you don't like it? I think there should be some sort of challenge for anyone who wants this job--not as bad as fear factor, obviously, but people should be up for offal. And I was annoyed that she said "forget about the buñuelos with bay leaves." But why, Marion, WHY? How do I know it's just because you don't like foods that start with the letter 'b' or something? Has anyone on the board eaten these? (Guess I should go back and trawl this whole thread...)
  4. That's interesting about the provenance of kushari, Vikram--I had no idea. And too true about the pigeons. There was a restaurant near the shooting club in Doqqi that had urban legend constantly swirling around it: Some friend of a friend was always finding shot in her pigeon stuffed with fireekah (some kind of wheat treatment, but different from bulgur), so it was obvious the shooting club was just selling the dead birds to the restaurant. The produce: that's what I really miss. Every week or two it seemed like something new was in season, and everything was just fantastic. I remember saying that I'd miss the tomatos in class once, and my Egyptian teacher said, "You should have tasted them before they put the dam in! Everything was so much better then!" How much of that is her childhood nostalgia, and how much is old-style farming with alluvial silt rather than chemical fertilizers, I don't know, but man, I wish I'd been alive then... And the milk store: such a heavenly oasis! The one on my block was always air-conditioned and gleaming clean, which was great in the summer. They sold milk by weight in plastic bags, and yogurt and rice pudding. The milk is unhomogenized, so when I made yogurt with it, you'd get the layer of cream on top--delish. As for desserts, Umm Ali (bread pudding with nuts and raisins) is the big thing. It can be good if it's not totally mushed up and still has some texture. During Ramadan there were also these little pancake things with 'ishta (clotted cream, usually with rose water or orange blossom water, and of course sugar) on top or stuffed inside. You could buy the pancakes from street vendors. I'm totally blanking on their name, though, and I don't think they're specific to Egypt. Wait: qatayif (plural). Hillvalley, if you really want to horrify your students, tell them about Eid al-Adha, the holiday when every family slaughters a lamb. There was a lamb vendor near my house who set up shop a month before, and every day you'd see the numbers dwindle--kind of like a Christmas tree lot, but not. You hear all this bleating from behind closed doors and up on roofs. Day of, really, the gutters run with blood. And some guy comes around with a cart collecting the skins, and stacks them all up on each other and they make this gross schklurking sound... I loved it. On second thought, better not tell the students. They'd probably hold it against Muslims forever.
  5. FYI, pomegranate syrup, aka pomegranate molasses, is also used in Egypt, but nowhere near as much as in Lebanon, Syria and Iran. Egyptians typically don't seem big on the fruit-meat combos you get in other countries.
  6. Thanks for the nice welcomes to the site! Happy to be here... And glad the info is useful. Re: Pomegranates, they are used in Egypt, but I saw them primarily as juice: 'aseer ruman. Fresh-squeezed, just cut in half and squished on one of those big metal presses they use for oranges. So delicious--and actually reminded me that grenadine syrup is supposed to be pomegranate-flavored. As a big fan of Shirley Temples in my younger days, primarily for the grenadine syrup, I drank that pomegranate juice by the liter-bottle-full in season. (For the record, that Pom Wonderful stuff is nothing like it. Bleh. But I think that's been discussed on the Drinks thread.) That's funny about the bean sandwiches. I also ate many a mashed-potato sandwich in Cairo (lots of parsley and garlic and slightly crunchy onions for texture)--ah, sweet starch!
  7. Theabroma, can you tell me more about the frozen nueces? What brand? Do they come with the fuzzy shells still on? I have looked all over the damn place for fresh green walnuts in season, and can't find them--and I live in NYC. I've got a line on some next summer from my Cypriot produce guy, but until then...
  8. zora


    For the record, the Cozumel ferry heist business was back in 1999, and the robbers were targeting an armored truck and its contents, not tourists. Which doesn't make it _right_, but obviously, but it's not like this stuff happens all the time. And Playa had a very heavy (and friendly) tourist police presence, even on back streets, when I was there in September--I felt very safe there as a single woman. But more importantly, food: I second Coffeelia, La Choza was so-so (though I didn't get any avocado pie--that might change my mind!), and Conchita del Caribe, Av 65 between C 21 and C 23, is a popular way-off-the-beaten-track place, known for ceviche. I think it closes by 5 or 6pm (as do most good traditional restaurants--plan your day around lunch). Also, Chilangos, Av Coldwell between C 3 and C Morelos, is a huarache stand (open-face quesadilla thingies, not shoes) where you can pick all your toppings. I'm not usually one to be squeamish about food safety, but it might bear mentioning that most of the beach restaurants don't have running water--if your GI tract hasn't been toughened up by prior traveling, these might be the places that would cause trouble. For this, and the length of your visit, I agree you're better off staying in town for a meal.
  9. While the Egyptians do eat versions of Levantine food (baba ghanouj, hummous, etc.) it's generally heavier and spiced differently (usually blander, to my mind...or maybe just earthier--it rarely has the brightness that Lebanese food has). One particularly Egyptian thing is bisara, which is a fava bean paste, served cold, usually spiced with cumin and cilantro. If you get it in fancy places or houses, it's almost jellied from the starch, and you can schloop a big firm scoop onto your plate. In more casual places, it's more of a spread. Also, kushari is the big street food: a starch bomb of rice, lentils and vermicelli bits, topped with a spicy, vinegary tomato sauce (usually smooth) and crisp-fried onions. You can then shake on a hot, garlicky vinegar sauce for more kick. Ful medammas, or slow-cooked fava beans with tomatoes, garlic and onion, are the real staple--pretty much every restaurant has a big bulgy container of these simmering away. Ta'amiya is the variation on falafel--as someone above said, it's fava beans instead of chickpeas, and bright green because fresh herbs--parsley and cilantro, usually, but I think there are other more Egypt-specific greens used too--are blended in when making the paste. It's usually served with a heavy tahini topping, unlike a lot of Levantine falafel, where you get a yoghurty sauce. Misa'a is the Egyptian version of moussaka--none of the cinnamon that Greeks use, and no bechamel topping. And pretty often not much lamb either... OK, this could digress into a serious judgmental rant at any second... All that said, my favorite restaurant in the world is an Egyptian one, the Kabab Cafe, in Astoria, NY. But the chef is from Alexandria, which I think has a better food heritage because there's more pan-Mediterranean influence. There's an article from Saveur on Egyptian food, which makes it sound much more delicious than I can: Saveur Egyptian story And Claudia Roden's original book on Middle Eastern cooking is heavy on Egyptian food because she's from there.
  10. Yes, the mango flavor is delish--especially good for disguising iodine flavor in water when camping. You can get it at many Asian and Mexican groceries. Also just purchased in Mexico but haven't tried yet: tamarind.
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